Over the next two decades, more than 84 trillion dollars will change hands in what has become known as the “great wealth transfer.” More than $72 trillion of that will pass from older generations to their heirs, while nearly $12 trillion will be donated to charities.
This shift in multigenerational wealth represents a huge opportunity for future generations. To ensure a smooth transition of wealth, it is important to consider the values you wish to impart that can help prepare heirs to manage their wealth and inheritance responsibly while carrying on your family’s financial legacy.
Consider these steps to instill your financial principles in your family.
Get clear about what your values are
Financial values serve as a guide for financial decision-making. Writing a personal financial mission statement can help you and your family establish exactly what your values are and communicate them to future generations.
These values, in turn, help you identify the purpose of family wealth, how to grow and maintain assets, and what types of financial education and tools are necessary to achieve these goals.
Begin by brainstorming a list of values with your family, narrowing it down to a handful of the most important. From there, address how you will approach them. For example, if one of your values is to cultivate an understanding of the responsibilities that come with wealth, your mission statement might say, “Our family will pursue financial literacy through education and regular meetings to discuss financial decisions.”
Open lines of communication
Set aside regular time to meet as a family and discuss values surrounding money in person. For example, if giving back is an important value, you may consider using this time to decide which causes you’ll donate to over the coming year.
If it’s difficult to regularly get the family together, have these meetings virtually or around the holidays.
Teach financial literacy
A solid financial education is key to ensuring future generations are good stewards of wealth. Start building healthy financial habits in school-age kids by teaching them financial basics such as saving and how to tell the difference between needs and wants. Teens may learn how to create a budget, how to establish good credit, and the importance of compounding returns.
When children reach adulthood, consider having them meet with a financial advisor who can cover a variety of topics, from setting up a retirement account to the inner workings of family trusts.
Support this learning by being open about your finances. Talk with your heirs about the challenges you have faced managing money and the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
Model your values
Future generations are more likely to adopt the values you establish when they see you modeling them. If you want to leave a legacy of charitable giving that your heirs will continue to uphold, make regular donations to causes you care about and invite them to participate. If you want your children and grandchildren to understand the importance of a strong work ethic, talk with them about how you gained the business skills that helped you succeed.
It is never too late to talk with your family about the responsibilities of inheriting your estate, but doing so can be uncomfortable. Americans report they would rather talk about politics, religion, and even marital problems before broaching the topic of money. A financial advisor can help facilitate conversations about finances and inheritance between you and younger generations, helping to identify values, set goals, and put a plan into action.